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Where we live: Changing for the future

Published May 18. 2019 06:01AM

I’ve been a reporter at the Times News since September, and in my last eight months covering Carbon County, I’ve had the privilege of profiling a few 100-year-olds.

There’s something special about sitting down with someone who’s been around for a century. You’re pretty much talking to an expert on longevity, which is why I always end our interview with this question: What’s the secret to living a long life? I’ve heard answers like “no chasing men,” and “keep your mind straight.”

The straightforwardness of their replies always makes me smile. One of the most important lessons they’ve learned over the last 100 years is to not overcomplicate things.

But their responses also make me jealous. Life doesn’t feel that simple for me, or for anyone my age. In fact, sometimes it feels like a future doesn’t exist for us at all.

And there’s a reason for that. As my favorite childhood science teacher Bill Nye phrases it (minus the expletive), “the world is on fire.”

Yep, you’re reading another article on climate change.

Journalists are often told their job is to be objective, balanced. But that’s not entirely accurate. My job isn’t to be detached — it’s to tell the truth. And the truth is we need to completely change the way we live, now.

Plus, I was told to write about whatever I wanted. I’m running with that.

I moved from Washington state to Pennsylvania last summer. There are a few things these states have in common, but only one really matters to me. They’re both covered in lush, green trees.

I thought my move cross-country would be a heart-wrenching one, and I was right. It was. But the natural beauty of Pennsylvania’s landscape made it easier. It reminded me of home.

But the beauty of these two places — just like every other beautiful place in the world — is in danger. The planet’s average surface temperature has risen approximately 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that we have just over a decade to avoid total catastrophe.

And knowing that’s a possibility, when I look at those trees, I’m no longer reminded of home. I’m reminded of how little time we have left to change.

Humans have a wicked superiority complex. We see the world and its resources as ours to do with as we please. We see the thousands of plant and animal species threatened with extinction because of our actions as nature taking its course.

On a recent episode of “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” the show’s crew walked the streets of Los Angeles to ask people if they thought “homo sapiens” — better known as humans — are worth saving. The comedy in that segment came from watching people not make the connection between humans and their scientific name.

But more important than the interviewees’ really, really depressing responses is the fact that I find it difficult to answer yes to that question. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe that good people still exist in the world, or that humanity as a whole is bogus. It means we are being confronted with destruction caused by our species, and too many of us are willingly turning away.

I chose to be a journalist because I like people. I like hearing their stories, and I especially like sharing them with the world. And if given the chance to save us, I would do so in a heartbeat. Because I want us to have a future.

But that future is going to cost our lifestyle, our money and our time, and if we’re not willing to give up those things — and demand them from big corporations and our politicians — then maybe we aren’t worth the effort.

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